By Vijitha Yapa

“In around 2020, a severe pneumonia-like illness will spread throughout the globe, attacking the lungs and the bronchial tubes, and resisting all known treatments. Almost more baffling than the illness itself will be the fact that it will suddenly vanish as quickly as it arrived…”

This is not a quote from US President Donald Trump but out of a book published 12 years ago by a psychic – Sylvia Browne. People weren’t particularly interested at the time but today, it has become a bestseller.

On 9 March 2020, Trump tweeted that the novel coronavirus was not as perilous as the flu. He noted that 37,000 Americans had died of the common flu last year, which number ranges from an estimated 27,000 to 70,000 annually.

His tweet claimed that nothing has been shut down, and life and the economy were going on. At the time, there were 546 confirmed cases and 22 deaths in the US.

By 20 April, more than 787,000 Americans had contracted COVID-19 and over 42,000 had died as a result of it. According to the WHO, the total global death toll at the time stood in excess of 160,000 and by 26 May, it had reached almost 350,000 confirmed deaths.

Interestingly, on 9 January 2020 Sri Lanka’s Director General of Health Services Dr. Anil Jasinghe claimed in an article published in the Daily News that the public should not panic about influenza because it isn’t caused by an unidentified new virus.

Browne thinks the virus will disappear in the same way it first appeared but would return 10 years later. However, there’s no sign of it disappearing anytime soon.

Bestselling author Dean Koontz’s novel The Eyes of Darkness, which was published in 1982, has also sparked interest recently. Koontz writes about a fictional Chinese scientist who defected to the US carrying a diskette record of China’s dangerous new biological weapon known as ‘Wuhan-400’ because it was developed in a lab outside the city by that name.

The book tells a chilling story about the Chinese developing a secret biological weapon using a virus that causes respiratory problems. This bioweapon could be unleashed anywhere in the world at short notice.

Predictions of future events always fascinate us and Sri Lankan astrologers have a field day in this regard. That is if one ignores the infamous prediction by astrologer Sumanadasa Abeygunawardena who claimed that the then president Mahinda Rajapaksa would win the 2015 presidential election.

But isn’t it ironic that astrologers who make money by predicting the future couldn’t foresee the global chaos that would be caused by COVID-19?

Other than the prediction about the virus, Browne also foresees an American president suffering a fatal heart attack, and that the vice president would take over and declare war on North Korea. She has also foretold that the assassination of the new president would follow.

With North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the news at the time of writing this article due to speculation about his health, it will be interesting to see what happens as events unfold in the rest of this year. Browne’s predictions, which extend up to 2050, focus mainly on the US – and many of them seem to be of a scientific nature.

There are some other interesting chapters on the history of various groups including the Incas and Mayas who predicted when the world would end.

The Mayan calendar is one of the best-known, predicting the end of the world in 2012. The Mormons also believed in the 2012 deadline. But 2012 came and went, and the world has still not ended, even though there have been many climate related incidents including earthquakes, droughts and floods.

Doomsday scenarios have dominated discussions for centuries through a combination of religious beliefs, experiences and available information. Browne provides details of the better-known cults and their beliefs, and the cruel acts they have performed.

What’s amazing is that in an educated nation such as the US, there are believers who are willing to trust in false messiahs and follow them blindly without questioning the orders issued to them.

The author has devoted space to discussing other intriguing details such as those of Native Americans, and prophesies made by their chieftains. What comes across very clearly is their strong belief in nature.

Perhaps the best-known prophet in history is Nostradamus. Michel de Nostredame was a French physician and astrologer. He believed that history repeated itself and prophesied far into the future. He is said to have foreseen the rise of Adolf Hitler, the moon landing in 1969 and the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City.